Picture Books

11/16/2012 - 12:35pm

I remember my first election.  I was ten years old and there was a long line, but the reward was an “I Voted” sticker which I proudly wore.  The next morning, I eagerly asked who won and was disappointed that it wasn’t my mom’s candidate.  That was the first time I ever took an interest in politics and all of these years later, I still remember the experience.  When you vote tomorrow, you have a chance to create similar memories.  Take your young person and talk to them about the election process.  If you’re not sure what to say, the library offers excellent resources some of which are featured below.  

Today on Election Day” by Catherine Stier captures the excitement of voting from the point of view of several young protagonists.  On election day, one child waits to cross the street with construction workers, restaurant servers and a pilot, all of whom are heading to the polls.  Another is going with his 18 year old brother to vote in his first election.  Yet another joins his grandfather who, in all of his years of voting, has pushed down a lever, punched a card and even marked a paper ballot.  Stier successfully relates the voting experience to an early elementary audience.  Readers will finish the book with an understanding and sense of pride for our election process.

10/23/2012 - 3:30am

Call me clichéd, but autumn is one of my favorite times of year.  On a physical level, I can pull out my cozy sweaters and boots and be consistently warm, and on a spiritual one, I can kick leaves with my husband and enjoy the breeze while walking the dogs.  Somehow picture book authors successfully capture all of the wonderful elements of this beautiful season of change.  

09/13/2012 - 3:30am
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

In Grandpa Green, Lane Smith tells the story of one man's life through his passion. Topiary gardeners shape bushes and trees into fantastic sculptures of whatever they desire. We meet Grandpa Green as a gigantic bushy baby, sprinkling tears with the words, "He was born a really long time ago," beneath.

We go on to explore Grandpa's life through the garden, with different sculptures illustrating each step in his life. He grows up on a farm, escapes into the wonder of tales like The Wizard of Oz, goes to war, and starts a family. Smith combines the lush greens of the topiary scultpures with very thin black lines for tree trunks, branches, animals in the garden, and the great-grandson who narrates the story. That choice allows the sculptures to pop off the page like a vibrant special effect.

09/06/2012 - 3:31am
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

Jeremy Draws a Monster never gets too scary. The beast in question has some horns and is a bit of a snaggletooth, but his eyes are too tiny to be that threatening. Still, this monster is this one rude dude. Jeremy seemed to just want a friend to play with. He stays inside while other children play soccer. So he takes a fancy pen and draws this creature creation.

08/30/2012 - 3:31am
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Bears have much in common with people. We're both mammals. We're both omnivores. We are protective of our young. Also, if a bear happens to lose something very important, they will search for it. Especially if that something is their hat.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is a clear-cut observation of a bear in his natural habitat, asking other animals if they have seen his missing prized possession.

What that description did not tell you is how unbelievably charming and oddball Klassen has made this story. Bear, standing upright, interrogates a different animal. Nearly every conversation is alike. No one has seen his hat and bear retorts, "OK. Thank you anyway." before he goes on to the next creature. The whole thing reads like a classic comedy bit.

08/23/2012 - 8:21am
Papa and Me

"Crossing the street Papa says 'La mano' and he takes my hand." The love between a father and his son is apparent in Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros. The strong bond between them leaps from the colorfully illustrated pages of this book. As they begin their morning and make breakfast together and head to the bus, they revel in the joy of a simple day.

While making breakfast together, they invent a "special food." "Sabroso" they declare, delicious, as they taste the eggs and pancakes. The book uses both English and Spanish to tell the simple story. The characters are happy and they move between English and Spanish effortlessly. 

08/09/2012 - 8:14am
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon

When my son was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with a "lazy eye."  I do not know if that is still the appropriate term to use, but the result was that he had to wear a patch over one eye (the stronger one) to force the other eye to work harder and to strengthen.  In the book The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon, the main character, Ginny, receives a similar diagnosis when she does not pass a routine vision screening at school.  Ginny has difficulty seeing.  She runs into things in the classroom, and some of her classmates laugh at her.  Ginny loves reading but when she reads she has trouble seeing the letters, and she has to get very close to the page.  The imagery of the letters hopping "around like popcorn" and the number 2 looking more like a swan help bring the reader into Ginny's world.

08/02/2012 - 3:31am
I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio

If only I had read I'd Really Like to Eat a Child when I was small, life would have been so much easier.

This is not because I fell victim to some carnivorous beastie that could only be satisfied with devouring yours truly--though once I was surrounded by a ferocious herd of petting-zoo goats. Rather, I might have understood the importance of eating whatever my parents told me to.

I am a former picky eater. Fruits and vegetables were not my bag, and hot dogs reigned supreme. One time I even threw a stuffed pepper out the window. Fortunately, time has passed, and I began to appreciate the foods that I once avoided. But I know how the little crocodile Achilles feels when he rejects his parents' meal of freshly-picked bananas. "Today, I'd really like to eat a child."

07/26/2012 - 3:31am
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Chloe and the Lion is not about a young girl facing off with a ferocious feline, no matter what the title says. Sure, Chloe's present, saving up her nickels and dimes to ride the merry-go-round. She does, in fact, spin around that ride so many times that she gets dizzy and lost in the nearby woods. It is at that very point that Chloe should meet a lion. Instead, a large, ferocious, winged, burgundy dragon steps out.

Writing a picture book is hard work. You must have a solid story, likable characters, and the right choice of words. What's more, this delicate balance can be completely thrown out of whack by a maverick illustrator who thinks that "a dragon would be cooler."

07/19/2012 - 3:31am
Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette C

Over in the ocean

Far away from the sun

Lived a mother octopus

And her octopus one

In Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef, Marianne Berkes adapts the classic song, “Over in the Meadow,” to life in a coral reef. This counting rhyme explores ocean life from stingrays to puffer fish to seahorses. This engaging picture book invites interaction on many levels. The fun counting song includes many factual details about the coral reef habitat and the animals that live there with their babies. Whether they are squirting, puffing, jumping or skittering, the actions of each creature accurately reflects their real-life behavior.

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